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Zack Snyder’s Justice League 4K UHD Review

Zack Snyder’s Justice League” was given a 4K release on 24-May-2021 outside of the United States and will be released in the United States on 7-Sep-21. For those who have not seen the film, this film is the director’s cut to the 2017 release of “Justice League.”

In May 2017, Snyder left the first project following the death of his daughter, and Joss Whedon was hired to finish the film, completing it as an uncredited director. This version had a brighter tone and more humor, and the runtime was significantly cut. The theatrical version received mixed reviews and was a box office disappointment.

How the Snyder Cut Happened

Afterward, many fans started thinking that there was an alternate cut more faithful to Snyder’s original vision. Eventually, fans and members of the cast and crew petitioned for the release of this cut and in May of 2020, Snyder announced that the original cut would be released as “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on the streaming service HBO Max. It cost around $70 million to complete the visual effects, score, and editing of the new material that was filmed in October of 2020. The completed version was released on 18-Mar-2021. Many considered it superior to the theatrical version both in style and character depth in spite of its much longer runtime.

Throughout this entire process, the biggest movers of this film’s release were the fan movement of “#RestoreTheSnyderVerse.” They have been vocally active in showing their support for Snyder. As of 04-June, Snyder has admitted that he “[hasn’t] heard from [Warner Brothers] at all,” when it comes to details regarding the HBO Max viewership numbers.

“I haven’t heard from them at all…the only communication was [Warner Bros. CEO] ANN [SARNOFF]’S ARTICLE after the movie was released, but that wasn’t directly to me.”

However, even if they did release the viewing numbers from the film’s release on HBO Max, there is a disconnect between what the fans want and what Warner Bros. wants. Fans of the Snyderverse have been clear that the filmmaker should be able to finish his vision for the DCEU, whether it means coming back to film or even to produce sequels to Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Though with there being a lot of other issues such as the concerns brought to light by Ray Fisher, and Warner Brothers seemingly moving on from Snyder, that possibility seems further from coming to fruition.

Streaming problems

However, as of this review, in the United States, this film can only be seen digitally on HBO Max. The issue with streams is that when one watches movies at home, both video and audio quality can be lost depending on the internet service or even the streaming service itself. This is due to compression as the picture and sound information have to be processed in a way to send it over the internet. As of this review, to get authentic 4K content on HBO Max, the internet download speed needs to be at least 25 Mgbs or higher. If it fluctuates, HBO Max will automatically adjust the video quality based on your connection’s download speed.

If your download speed is less than 25 Mbps, the show or movie won’t stream in 4K HDR. For the best experience, HBO Max recommends a download speed of 50+ Mbps for consistent 4K content. On top of that, the speeds are affected by the number of devices on the internet being used and the type of router to send the stream to the viewing device. Additionally, the number that an internet provider gives as their speed is only if the device is connected to the internet directly by ethernet cable and not sent through wifi. At maximum, a wifi connection can give about 70% of said speeds. Today, viewing content on a 4K UHD is still the best way to view and hear a movie even if streaming is more convenient. This is because it eliminates the information from being lost due to internet compression. 

The Video

The film is 242 minutes and was filmed on 35mm and then mastered to a 4K digital intermediate. It has a 1.33:1 aspect ratio so it will have black bars. But they are on the side in comparison to most movies which have them on the top and bottom. This is because the film was formatted to be shown on IMAX screens. In comparison to the stream, the HDR10 is equal to the Dolby Vision that HBO Max had. Though the majority of the film is Snyder’s typical dark palate, the minimal amount of colors is excellent. They shine through and are a touch more vibrant than the streaming counterpart. The Flash’s costume has a very deep red that contrasts well with the surrounding lightning. However, the difference between HDR10 and Dolby Vision is minimal. Even so, they’re both very good and much better than any SDR viewing which again is a possible situation for some HBO Max viewers. As with any physical media, the value of having this on the disc is that the viewing is subject to bitrate limitations.

No longer hindered by the streaming, white and black levels are also very deep. This gives an increased level of detail and crispness that is definitely better than the stream. Even the CGI looks immensely better as it no longer has the bitrate limitations, but there are a few scenes where the grain is very evident. The grain is not a bad look though given the increased level of detail on the rest of the film. 

For better or worse, Snyder chose this aspect ratio on purpose. One cannot say what that purpose was as other directors have done the IMAX format without having these bars. For that reason alone, it prevents the video from being a perfect viewing experience even if it doesn’t bother some viewers. 

VIDEO SCORE: 4/5

The Audio

As with the video, HBO Max’s ability to do the film’s Dolby Atmos track depends on the devices used. If one does not have the appropriate devices, HBO Max will play the film with a 5.1 mix. Again because the disc does not have that limitation, the Atmos track shines through along with Junkie-XL/Tom Holkenborg’s aggressive score. One can hear the parademons flying around them along with hearing the fans in the stadium at Victor’s football game. Quieter moments even are able to give an immersive surround presence. Dialogue is still clear during the action sequences even with sounds uploading around. Supplemented with an amazing subwoofer, this audio is reference level even if doesn’t have the same encapsulating bubble that both prior Snyder DCEU films, “Man of Steel,” and “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” have. 

AUDIO SCORE: 5/5

Special Features

“Road to Justice League” (24:40) – a short retrospective that Snyder gives a good look back on the journey that he and this film went on. However, this one special feature seems limiting given the effort it took to get this thing done. Maybe the special feature is the release of the movie itself? In that case, it’s a good special featurette. 

SPECIAL FEATURES SCORE: 3/5

Overall

The movie is spread over two 4K discs and the film is an absolutely impressive 4K transfer with an equally impressive Dolby Atmos mix. If you’re looking for pure physical 4K goodness, this movie is for you but if don’t want to import a copy from overseas, it will be released in the United States on 07-Sep-2021. However, it also looks like that no bonus materials will be included with this release nor the Justice is Gray black & white version of the film. So, waiting for it to be released then won’t add any difference to the purchase. If you want to import it now, 4K UHD disks do not have region codes so it will play on your current 4K UHD player. 

OVERALL SCORE: 4/5

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About the reviewer:

My name is Dre, aka The Formal Review, and I am a huge home entertainment and physical media enthusiast. I have been a cinephile since childhood and have studied science, film, art, and mathematics. 

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How I review 4K UHD:

I will write about the movies that I own that either I buy or already own. If a reader wants me to review a specific movie, I will. No matter if it’s good or bad, I will be honest and if it is worth the upgrade over the prior releases and/or streaming. The rating scale for each section is on a simple 1-5 and 5 is kept for the reference quality movies. The overall score is then the average number of the three which is either rounded up or rounded down. The score is then put on this word scale.

5: Reference Quality/The Best/Must Own

4: Not reference but worth buying/upgrading at full price

3: Worth Buying/Upgrading but wait for a sale

2: Fans Only

1: Skip it unless you absolutely need it.

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